Sowing the Seeds of Love

These lyrics from ‘Tears for Fears’ may not have been talking about plants, but they do describe activities on the farm this week.

The last seven days have been a stretch on the farm for all sorts of reasons. We are very lucky to have, in every area of our business, strong teams and the farm is no exception.

When you don’t need to ask and yet the lads put in 12-hour days to get the sowing done before the rain you know you have special people. 

In vegetable farming it is about a great many things but right at the top of the list is timing.

Getting the timing right is powerful stuff and the race against the rain in the West of Ireland is always a close call and fraught with uncertainty.

I am relieved that the carrots, parsnips, beetroot, and spinach are all now in the ground. There is more to sow, but the first batches are sown and that has for now stilled the vague buzz of concern at the back of my mind that we will not win the race against the weather.

The first tomatoes, cucumbers and a host of broccolis, cabbages, kales, romanescos and more are all planted and making good progress.

So, we march on, the first weeding is happening the first harvest of new season crops too, our own gorgeous lettuce and spinach, chard, radish parsley and more.

‘Feel the pain, talk about it’ another lyric from the same great song. There has been hard work certainly, pain a little, satisfaction at a job well done for sure. But there is pain in the modern world of food production and we in our own little way we are attempting to set that right.

Although we have been very busy with the work of growing food our care for the land has certainly not been forgotten, the wildflowers, the hedges and wildlife, the trees, the birds and beehives, the pigs and the foxes, the work on those long term valuable investments has already been done in quieter days.

The fruits and benefits of which now we can see.

Every day I am so grateful to be able to do this, I am grateful to you for giving us and our farm the opportunity to thrive.

Your choice to get a box from us is an amazingly positive thing and you should know it is making a difference for you and your families health, and for the health of the planet.

Thank you.

Kenneth

PS: Have you tried our new repeat order system yet? You can set up an order for delivery every week and you can pause it or change it at any time.  So if you need certain things each week why not add them to your regular fruit and veg order and never miss your order deadline again?

Rekindling our Connection with Food

Bees and other pollinators enjoying the kale we leave to flower each year

The art of producing food is marvellous and tough, and on sunny days it is a privilege.

We talk about food all the time here, we grow it, we sow the seeds, we watch the plants grow, we fertilise the soil, we control the weeds and hope we have the right mix to ensure the plants grow healthy and pest free.

We spend the time in between managing the crops, maintaining the land, planting trees, growing hedging, sowing wildflowers for the bees, harnessing the power of the sun, these are all things we do.

We see first-hand the connection between the fresh produce and the cooked food on our plate. We can see how the process of growing healthy food from healthy soil creates local employment and impacts on our locality positively. Sustainable agriculture is good for all and it benefits the environment immeasurably.

Natures’ pest control – a healthy balance on predators and prey naturally occurs on organic farms

We see more bees, and flies, and insects on our farm and we feel there is a balance as we rarely see an out-of-control pest issue. We see more birds, and wild life, we see the land thrive, just this week I saw a giant hare saunter past one of our polytunnels.

Not only that, but organic food is so much better for us, of course it hasn’t been sprayed and so is free of harmful chemicals, but it is also just better nutritionally.

Weed burning rather than spraying chemicals before we plant out this years’ crops

A comprehensive study carried out by David Thomas has demonstrated a remarkable decrease in mineral content in fresh produce over 50 years, comparing food grown in 1941 to food grown in 1991. To the extent that today you would need to eat 6 apples to get the same nutritional value you got in 1941 from eating 5 apples. In some cases mineral levels have dropped by as much as 70%.  

The use of highly soluble fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides and the intensive production of food has led to land that is lifeless and food that is less healthy and less nutritionally dense, this reflects the remarkable connection between our food and the health of our soil. 

There is no way we could know this, as a population we are in danger of losing our connection with the land and our food. This is not our fault, the food system that is championed by supermarkets and giant food producers has made it this way. 

Imagine though if we could see the impact of our positive choices, if we could somehow rekindle that connection with our food? Over the past year it seems we have been remaking that connection.

We are reconnecting with our food by cooking and touching and smelling and seeing how our food is grown. We are redeveloping that connection with nature and this is something we can pass onto our children, we can show them that there is a great, fun and fantastically positive way to live and eat. Although from what I have seen recently it is the children who are teaching us!

Kenneth

Greenwashing

If you ever get a chance to watch ‘The Silver Branch’, an inspiring and beautiful story shot in county Clare, take it. It is a story of hope, the miracles of nature and honesty. 

There are moments and occurrences in our lives when we need to be reminded of what’s important , all too often these wake-up-calls pass us by in the busyness of life. This was one such moment for me.

It is the story of a man, a farmer, a poet and his connection with the land and nature. It was moving and beautiful and full of hope for the future. Hope is what keeps us going during the tough times.

After seeing the film, I had an urge to grab my children and bring them out into the fields to show them the beauty of nature. 

Nature is precious, and we are all called on to protect it. We share this planet with a vast diversity of living beings, and it is our obligation to tread softly and nurture the land. 

“We have forgotten how to be good guests, how to walk lightly on the earth as other creatures do.” – Barbara Ward

‘The Silver Branch’ is a true and authentic story about life, nature and hope. Stories like these are the real stories that need to be told. Uplifting, inspiring, honest and true. Our planet is in trouble and there is much work to be done and there are many good, small, ethical companies and producers doing their bit and playing their part to set things right. 

But to use the environmental problems that we are facing as a marketing tool to sell more, to increase sales and profits, to generate a false picture of doing right; using the greatest man-made crisis of our time to stamp green credentials on corporations and retailers with dubious intentions… there can be no greater travesty of truth and abuse of trust possible. 

It is greenwashing and it is wrong.

Abuse of the truth, however small, needs to be called out, because transparency and trust have never been more important. There is no greater challenge facing humanity than our ability right now to come together and to move to a present of less consumption, renewable energy and a food production system that protects nature. 

As Patrick McCormack’s plight in ‘The Silver Branch’ of saving the Burren from a visitor centre that would have destroyed the landscape seemed helpless, so it seems with climate change. He and a small group of committed individuals defied the powers of church, government and consensus to turn the tide and save the Burren and triumphed against the odds, driven by honest belief.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Meade

Thank you for being a part our our small group of committed citizens!

Kenneth

Order a one off or start a repeat order for a steady supply of sustainable, delicious fruit, vegetables and groceries here.

Sustainable Growth

During the week I had a very big decision to make and as with all big decisions it is never black and white. It may seem as you look in from the outside that it is, but rarely when looking in from the outside does one see the whole picture. But having a vision and idea of what is important can help make those decisions a little easier. 

We have spent 15 years this May creating a business from nothing. The team and the people who have come and gone over the years have worked hard, and there is no question in my mind that Green Earth Organics would not be where it is today if it wasn’t for these people, the long hours and hard work.

The farm and business have grown a lot over the last 15 years, and we are proud to say that a culture of empathy and respect has also grown. There will always be times when we do not get it right (and no doubt there has been plenty of them, more often than not some would say), but the intention of the business is genuine and pointing in the right direction.

The idea of environmental preservation and respect for our fellow human being has always been right at the heart of what matters here. This can sometimes get stretched when you are faced with the harsh financial pressure of the world of business, and it is true that out in this world the bottom line is all that counts. 

We would be forgiven then for thinking that profit and the bottom line is all that matters. But we would be wrong because therein lies the seeds of greed. It is this thinking that has landed the planet in the precarious situation it is currently in.   

And yet, it would be extremely naive to think that profit does not matter and that it is all about picking wild-flowers and lying in the long grass. Simply put, without a healthy, profitable business our little community would not exist.

I know, as does anybody who has ran a business (or a household for that matter), that there is constant pressure to succeed and deliver and that at times there can be intense financial pressure. But there can also be times of remarkable reward in feeling satisfied of a job well done or having done your best despite the odds.

Green Earth Organics was born out of the need to do right in the world and love for the land and our vision is pretty simple:

“Using food as a force for positive change by putting the well-being of our environment at the centre of every decision we make.  We believe that producing food with respect for nature and for the multitude of creatures we share this planet with is the only way to farm. We believe that we can do this by providing an alternative to the mainstream, by growing and providing healthy sustainable food, by conducting our business in an ethical and sustainable way, with respect for all at its heart.”

We could not do any of this if it were not for your support.

Thank you!

Kenneth

PS We have some amazing, exciting changes to tell you about.  We have listened to what you said and have reduced our minimum spend to €30, we have also added FREE delivery for all orders over €100 always – so stock up on your organic groceries with us and get everything you need delivered to your door in one, efficient delivery. Finally, you will see our website has changed and now you can create a regular repeat order and never forget to order again!

Earth Day & The Hungry Gap

People often ask, why do you produce your own food? Why do you grow it when it is so much cheaper to import it? It is a very easy answer, and the reasons are twofold: I love what I do, it is in my blood (we are third generation farmers) and I would not do anything else.

Secondly because it simply is the right thing to do. Having food grown locally makes sense, it cuts down on carbon emissions, it is fresher, it provides local employment, it improves biodiversity, and we are lucky enough to have the opportunity to do it. We need more people to do it.

With Earth Week starting today and Earth Day falling on the 22nd, it is a good time to reflect on our habits. We have seen such a shift to supporting local food over the last 12 months and this is one of the most wonderful changes we as individuals and families can make. It’s impact on the planet cannot be overstated, understanding where and how our food is produced can help us make better decisions and lead to a cleaner healthier planet.

Today as I write this, after a day in the fields, I feel lucky to be a farmer. Days do not come much better than this, the sky is blue, the sun is shining the birds are singing and we are on schedule with our planting. In the West of Ireland days like today are to be relished and enjoyed, and there is the added bonus that our office is a 5-acre field, I like that.

If there was one small thorn in my side, it is the planting machine. It is temperamental old and cranky and every year there is a requirement to find mutual common ground between (sometimes also cranky) farmer and machine, this year that ground has been hard to find and has led to a few choice expletives.

Nevertheless, if farming has thought me anything and it teaches a lot, is that perseverance with an air of optimism generally gets you through.

It is funny to think that just this week we finished harvesting the last of our kale which was planted nine months ago and today we planted the very first kale for the new year. This kale will take at least 8 weeks to reach harvestable maturity. We have also been very busy planting cabbage, Romanesco, broccoli, lettuce, and celery.

Myself being the impatient individual that I am can sometimes expect that we should have more IRISH food at this time of the year especially when the sun shines. But nature and farming do not work like that, and right now we are slap bang in the middle of what we call the “Hungry Gap”. There is a lull in IRISH food supply, of course that does not mean it is not available, it is, and we have loads, leeks, mushrooms, potatoes, spinach, salad, radish, and parsnips. But for the next few weeks it gets difficult.

Every year we get a little bit earlier and a little bit smarter with our planting and this year is the earliest yet, but even so, there are weeks starting now when supply is tight. Take tomatoes for example, we have our plants ready for transplanting, but harvest is at least 8 weeks away.

Right now, on our 40-acre organic farm there is a tremendous amount of work going on behind the scenes. For the last 2 months we have been busy ploughing, tilling, fertilising, planting, covering, uncovering, watering and sowing. All of this to lead to a rich harvest of local organic food in the weeks ahead, but it takes time, and it does not matter how impatient I am, nature cannot be sped up, it travels at its own pace.

So, although we are heading into the hungry gap now, be reassured that you are supporting a truly local food growing effort both here on our farm and through all the other amazing IRISH organic farms and producers across the country that we support. Remember in the famous words of Margaret Meade “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

As always, thank you for your patience and perseverance!

Kenneth

PS Don’t forget to do a little something for Earth Week, whether it is supporting more local food producers, or learning more about how your food is produced, driving less, turning off lights or eating less meat, what can you do? Just raising our awareness is a powerful tool in the fight for our planet.

Why Organic?

It was many moons ago, in a life that was never quite meant to be, that I finally realised what it was we needed to do with my grandad’s farm.

You see 20 years ago I was very comfortable working away for the biotech industry in the UK, working in a laboratory researching different chemicals for this and that.

I am a scientist turned organic farmer and I have a very healthy respect for science. But there is one thing I do not agree with, it just does not make any sense to me, and that is the whole scale blanket application of chemicals on our food.

Chemicals that are meant for a laboratory should stay there, and if they are toxic to some life then generally speaking, they will be toxic to other life, it isn’t even that chemicals are ‘bad’ it is the prevalence and ubiquity of them in our food chain and our environment that is harmful.

They are in our food and they are not good for us, and they are not good for life in the  countryside either, they really aren’t. Take a family of chemicals called the neonicotinoids, deemed safe for years, but then it was found that they do irreparable damage to bees and other insects. How, on any level, can using a chemical like that as a blanket spray across our countryside be justified? 

Many of these chemicals do not just sit on the outside of the plant, they are systemic by nature. That means they are absorbed into the plant and do their damage from the inside out, so unfortunately simply washing veg and fruit doesn’t remove them.

Some produce are more heavily sprayed than others and two that regularly feature in the ‘dirty dozen’ are kale and spinach – which is ironic as both grow very well in organic systems. Eating organic of course is one of the easiest and best ways to avoid this unhealthy exposure.

It is possible to grow great food without the use of chemicals, it is a little harder, it takes a little more attention and planning, it requires more labour but isn’t it worth it in the end?

Surely the production of food in a way that contributes to our health and the health of the planet, a way that enhances and protects biodiversity, a way that encourages working with nature rather than against it must be the best way to grow food?

Thank you for taking a good hard look at how your food is produced and choosing to       embrace and support organic – a healthier way of farming for us and our planet.

Kenneth

Have a look at our full range of organic fruit, veg and groceries here and why not consider making your life easy with a weekly fruit and veg box from us?

Spring is in the Air

Thanks to your generosity last week, we will be donating €900 to The Irish Cancer society.

A sense of possibility and new beginnings is naturally in the air in Spring. On the farm, maybe it is the start of the new plant and seed arrivals that kindles this feeling, but there is a sense that we can do things better this year, that we will try a little harder to get things right, that all will be well in the end.

Nature is waking up, the birds are singing, the daffodils are blooming, the new leaves are beginning to unfurl on the trees. The extra daylight means that life cycles are changing and growth increasing, it is a natural rhythm, and it resonates on a subconscious level, if you let it.

Even our lovely new season salad is responding well to the extra light, and we will be harvesting ours and also Mick and Audrey from Millhouse farm will be delivering their gorgeous salad to us for all the boxes next week.

The sun is higher in the sky and on clear days you can feel the first tendrils of warmth, there is more power too in its rays and from now on the capture of this power to make electricity works well. (We installed a large solar panel array two years ago and it sits on the roof of one of our sheds generating clean renewable energy.)

Frequently now we can see plants growing, hear the birds singing and the insects buzzing well before it is time. This can be symbolic of a world out of sync and it has ramifications for all living systems. Planning a season of vegetable growing on the farm becomes more of a gamble as the natural order we rely on can change unpredictably and dramatically.

Luckily to date here in Ireland we have been spared the worst of the effects of the climate emergency. The climate crisis is a complex global problem but maybe the solutions are also simpler than we think? Down at the level of you and I there is much that can be done. Planting trees is one of the simplest ways to help redress the balance, as farmers we have an obligation to plant trees, and as gardeners there is always space for a tree. Again, thanks to your support, we just recently planted another 1500 trees here on our farm. By supporting local food growers like us and Mick and Audrey you too are doing your bit to tackle the climate crisis.

The prediction of the weather for the year ahead was often associated with a saying closely tied to trees, “ash before oak you are in for a soak, oak before ash you are in for a splash”. It seems this year at least here in Galway that the ash has won the race. Nevertheless, if living and farming in the west of Ireland has taught me one thing it is that the weather is unpredictable. It changes fast and sometimes when you least expect it, it surprises you.

Here is hoping for a lovely, sunny Summer surprise this year.

Kenneth

PS – DON’T FORGET IT IS DELIVERIES AS NORMAL FOR US NEXT WEEK, AND MONDAY IS A BANK HOLIDAY BUT NORMAL ORDERING AND DELVIERES APPLIES!!

We are maintaining the FREE Delivery over €100 next week also!

PPS – You have until Monday evening to grab your place on the Green Fingers course part 1 as we will be sending out seeds and resource packs next week by post!

Little Green Fingers

Clear your plate, finish your dinner, eat your carrots, stop playing with your food. Ever heard any of those phrases? Even more worrying, have you turned into the person who uses those phrases? I have to catch myself, I know I nearly have!

It is a tricky one though, never mind trying to tackle food waste but trying to do it with kids in the family is a double challenge.

The days of Hannah (our oldest daughter) eating raw broccoli are gone, although my sister Liz can get Joe my youngest to eat things at her house he point blank refuses at ours! Short of sending him there for dinner every evening we will need to come up with a better plan.

As a child I used to go picking mushrooms, there was nothing so magical as finding these beautiful white orbs in the fields that literally appeared overnight. The taste was amazing and it still stays with me. I was also fortunate as a kid to watch my grandad and dad grow vegetables in the garden; pulling fresh carrots, picking apples and eating peas from the pods are etched in my memory. 

I think these experiences as a young child must have had a bearing on my taste for vegetables, my eating habits, and my appreciation of nature today. I realise not all are so fortunate and times have changed. Even with an organic farm at our disposal it’s difficult to get our kids excited about veggies. But what if we could make vegetables and growing a little bit more accessible and fun? What if we could get kids excited about nature through touching the soil, through art, and through their innate love of living things? Then maybe we could get them amongst other things to eat more vegetables.

While this was not at all the primary reason that Jenny created ‘Little Green Fingers’, a new online practical course, it may well be a side effect! ‘Little Green Fingers’ is an interactive, get your hands dirty course. You and your children will plant seeds under my guidance from our polytunnels, and you will get to do fun and creative art, all with the theme of appreciating nature, with Jenny. 

There are limited numbers so if you are interested in learning more click here to chose from three options:

  • Part 1 is the first four weeks of the course
  • Part 2 is the second four weeks of the course
  • and Part 1&2 is the whole course

The first session starts on Saturday 17th April. We are looking forward to seeing many of you there!

As always, thank you so much for your support and as we kick off a new growing season, we hope you will stay with us, and keep going with the healthy habits you have developed over the last few months.

Kenneth

PS: All deliveries next week over €100 will have FREE delivery! We have a full range of organic groceries, it has never been a better time to stock up.

PPS: We will be donating 1% of all sales next week to the IRISH Cancer Society.

Pigs and Plastic

In 2018, we said goodbye to plastic for good in our boxes – we were the first company to do that in Ireland. We sourced compostable plant based bags, we launched our ‘Plastic Free’ shopping aisle and we made a commitment to never include any plastic wrapped produce in any of our set boxes ever again. Over the past three years, we have expanded this range, adding lots more sustainable ‘plastic free’ groceries and we introduced a new BULK section of plastic free groceries – even better value.

Supermarkets can’t have it both ways. They maintain their single use plastic packaging; they argue that it prolongs shelf life and therefore it is necessary to reduce food waste, and at the same time they reject perfectly good food on aesthetics leading directly to large amounts of food waste!

The pressure that below cost selling and rejecting produce based on how food looks places on growers can mean that farmers struggle to sustain their livelihoods. There is always a price to pay.

Ironically, the argument for food waste reduction has been used for the continued use of plastic in our food chain, at the very same time that produce not looking the part is dumped! Maybe It is the food system and how we produce and sell food that needs to change?

We used to supply supermarkets and we were told that we had to pay for any produce on their shelves that they did not sell. They also demanded that we lower our prices and stopped ordering until we complied. We pulled the plug ourselves and focused 100% on our home delivery business.

The plastic problem and food waste are issues of our time and as with climate change, they can only be solved by changing our behaviour and by making these issues the very centre of all decisions taken. Our pledge is to do just that.

I will never forget our very first season of growing veg here in the West of Ireland on my grand-dad’s farm. We were told we were mad it could not be done. Others told us that the only way to grow veg was to use a “touch of Roundup” our neighbour wanted to buy the family farm and pretty much laughed at our attempts to learn to grow veg. The local garda called up to see if we were growing strange things! That was 15 years ago.

We have shown it is possible and viable to rekindle a sustainable food production industry in the West of Ireland, to relearn the lost skills of generations and apply them to growing food, but also to innovate and to do it in a truly sustainable way.

Maybe there is hope after all that the bigger issues will be addressed and we can live a cleaner greener future.On food waste there is one thing is for sure: our two pet rescue pigs never complain when they see us coming, they get the truly unusable food and recycle it back into nutrients for the land!

Thanks as always for your support.

Kenneth

PS Reuse is so much better than anything else and we have always championed this, our boxes are the ultimate reusable container. We collect them and reuse them every week.

Wonderfully Wonky

Last year Joe my son found a potato and I don’t know if I should be alarmed or encouraged by the fact he wanted me to put it “online”. Joe is 7. He found this unusual potato and he wanted everybody to see it and funnily enough it tasted just as amazing as any other potato, but it certainly would not have made it onto supermarket shelves.

Finding unusual shaped vegetables for me is like a bonus, if we harvest carrots and find one that looks like it has two legs, or one like this potato we found last year, then we are delighted. They are funny and unusual and like nature are not uniform. Is there anything wrong with mishappen or “wonky” veg? Absolutely not, they taste the same, they were grown in the same sustainable way. Then why do supermarkets reject pallet loads of them because they do not meet “specifications” of “size” of “shape” or of “visual appearance”? They do, and it is a tragedy of modern times that we feel it is ok to dump food based on appearance.

A recent report on the factors that are most important to consumers when it comes to deciding on whether they will buy fresh produce or not is how it looks. I fault not a single person for this, it is hard not to be conditioned in this manner with our current supermarket led food chain.

A very involved and complex system has been developed to give us picture perfect produce at the lowest possible price. The look of the produce, no blemishes, straight carrots, no knobbly bits, shiny apples, picture perfect tomatoes is one of their major criteria when deciding whether to accept or reject a batch.

The reality of working with nature and growing food of course is that it comes in many shapes and sizes. There is so much beauty to be found in producing food, and not just on the surface, certainly Joe’s potato makes the cut every time in my book.

What is more important? How something was grown, or how something looks?

Here is the thing then, supermarkets make a massive deal about selling wonky veg, eliminating food waste etc but in reality they do very little! There should be “no wonky” veg, no grading out based on how something looks, knobbly bits and all. But that is not the way things are. If all we ever see is clean shiny picture-perfect produce, how will we react when we see something that is different, will we think possibly there is something wrong?

What about dirty veg? We send out our carrots, potatoes and parsnips with dirt on the roots. It makes sense, it keeps the produce fresh and therefore requires less packaging, because we have you, we can do it, we like it, and we get the impression you just might like it too! Please tell us if you do or if you do not!

As always thank you for your support, the wonky veg say thank you too!

Kenneth